ALMEDIA — If not for Emily Swineford's milestone goal and the torrent of them that followed, Selinsgrove's defense would have commanded the spotlight Tuesday.
The Seals greeted reigning Class 2A champion Donegal with their best defensive effort of the season — if not their high school careers — and opened the state tournament with a 7-1 win at Central Columbia H.S.
"We came out knowing Donegal's a very strong team, and I think we knew we had to play our 'A' game," said Selinsgrove senior back Gabby Kelly. "We played really hard, played as a team, and we talked a lot. I think we were just ready for them, honestly.
"We came out more confident than ever."
The Seals dominated the District 3 fifth-place Indians, allowing just one shot on goal while they built a 2-0 halftime lead. Swineford scored just 1:15 into the second half, becoming the fourth Selinsgrove player to amass 200 career points. The Seals then answered Donegal's lone goal with a run of four — three in a span of three of minutes midway through the half.
"I was nervous when we had two chances quickly (in the game) and within five minutes we had two more," said Selinsgrove coach Roz Erb. "In fact, right before we scored the first goal, I'm like, If we don't put this in, we're in trouble. Like, this is it. And the next thing I know, it's in. So thankful."
Selinsgrove (17-3) will carry an eight-game win streak into Saturday's quarterfinal matchup against District 3 third-place Twin Valley (17-8). Donegal finished 15-8.
The Indians were forced out of a big-ball passing game from the start. Rather than chasing the ball across the field and creating gaps Donegal could exploit, the Seals' wings stayed home to defend. When the Indians pushed the ball upfield, Selinsgrove was quick to double-team or block balls around the circle. The Indians generated just two first-half penalty corners, one with eight seconds to play.
"We played very good ball-pressure defense all over the field. So, front-to-back, I really think our defense was pretty stellar," said Erb. "Our backfield is tough, and Mazzie's amazing. She comes up big, and when you have the backs in front of you, Hannah (Smullen) and Gabby ... just a fantastic job."
Teats — who had to miss an out-of-state funeral for a great grandmother to make her first state playoff start — had five saves, including a stop of a point-blank look to preserve a 3-1 lead.
Selinsgrove opened the game with three corners in just more than seven minutes, scoring on the third when Jess Alba cleaned up a rebound in front. Exactly three minutes later, Katie Bucher sent a long ball from beyond the circle on the left side that was tipped by Liv Reichley on its way to Maddie Bucher above the right post for a 2-0 lead.
The score held until early in the second half when Swineford carried the ball on an arc just inside the circle to space along the right side and rifled in her team-high 21st goal of the season and 72nd of her career. It gave her 201 career points, joining Keli Smith, Morgan Fleetwood and Alicia Mayer as the program's 200-point scorers.
"That move, that play, took me, like, four years to learn," she said. "Just to keep the ball on my stick."
Donegal made it 3-1 with 24:49 to play when Emma Miller finished a long pass from Madison Leety on a breakaway. The Seals turned away a challenge before Reichley flipped in a pass from Maddie Bucher that sparked a run of three goals in as many minutes.
Alba and Maddie Bucher each added their second of the game to make it 6-1 and trigger the mercy rule. Greta Widmaier's first of the season capped the scoring with 5:03 to play.
PIAA CLASS 2A FIELD HOCKEY
At Central Columbia H.S.
SELINSGROVE 7, DONEGAL 1
S-Jess Alba, 22:08; S-Maddie Bucher, 19:08.
S-Emily Swineford, 28:15; D-Emma Miller (Madison Leety), 24:49; S-Liv Reichley (M. Bucher), 17:48; S-Alba (Anna Gephart), 16:15; S-M. Bucher (Gephart), 14:46; S-Greta Widmaier, 5:03.
Shots: S, 10-6. Corners: S, 12-3. Saves: Donegal 3 (Christine Emswiler); Selinsgrove 5 (Mazzie Teats).